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Penn State defeats No. 6 UND, 6-4, in U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game

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Published: Oct. 31, 2021 at 7:31 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE – The Music City was playing the blues on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena for most of the 14,659 fans, as No. 6 North Dakota dropped a 6-4 decision to Penn State in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game from Nashville.

Penn State (6-1-0) built a two-goal lead in the first period and never looked back, holding the advantage for the remainder of the game to capture the first win in the series between the two programs.

Former Minnesota defenseman Clayton Phillips, who played in the 2018 version of the contest between the Gophers and UND from Las Vegas, scored a pair of goals while Connor MacEachern also tallied a pair to help pace the Nittany Lions. PSU, who came in averaging over 40 shots on goal per game, was limited to just 23 total attempts on target, including 10 over the final 40 minutes.

UND (4-3-0) saw a three-point night from Riese Gaber and a pair of two-point outings from Jake Schmaltz and Ethan Frisch, chipping a two-goal deficit down to one on four-different occasions, but could not find the equalizer.

Zach Driscoll turned aside 17 shots while Oskar Autio stopped 28 of the 32 thrown his way to earn the game’s third star. Connor Ford helped pace a UND squad that dominated in the face-off dot, winning 25 of his 37 attempts to help the Fighting Hawks claim 43 of the 72 draws.

Penn State opened the scoring in the first period when Tyler Gratton capitalized on an odd-man rush following a wide shot on the other end of the rink to put the Nittany Lions up, 1-0.

Special teams took over for the next portion of the game, with the ensuing four goals coming with the man advantage. PSU doubled the lead to 2-0 and looked to be carrying that into the intermission, but Judd Caulfield cashed in on a loose puck in front of the net to cut the lead to 2-1 with 1:50 to play in the first.

North Dakota came out attacking to open the second period, with the first eight minutes being described by Head Coach Brad Berry as the team’s best of the game; however, it was a pair of penalties to Mark Senden and Connor Ford on the same play that flipped momentum back to PSU. With two of UND’s key penalty killers in the box for a full two-minute, 5-on-3 power play for Penn State, the Hawks looked to have nearly killed it off before MacEachern fired in a puck off a scramble to restore the two-goal lead on the man advantage.

Nearly two minutes later, Frisch found himself alone in the slot and fired it over the shoulder of Autio following a slick pass from Matteo Costantini to cut it right back to 3-2 with a power play goal. Phillips struck with less than five minutes left in the stanza on a shot through traffic from the point to push the lead back to 4-2, but Schmaltz ended the period on a high note again for the green and white with a power play goal with 10 seconds remaining to send both teams to the locker room with a 4-3 score.

In the third, North Dakota had a few looks on a dangerous power play in the third, but MacEachern scored the eventual game-winning goal at the 15:52 mark of the frame. Gaber capitalized with the goalie pulled to bring some life back into the building and the Hawks, trimming the game back to one, 5-4, but an empty net goal by the Nittany Lions salted the game away.

North Dakota returns home to host Denver on Friday and Saturday from Ralph Engelstad Arena.

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